Sunflower is a good driver
On arrival into Sydney
, I hired a car and took myself off for a lovely drive from Sydney to Goulburn
via the coast road through the Royal National Park, south to Wollongong
, then up the Macquarie Pass to Robertson in the Southern Highlands and on to Goulburn. I have wanted to do this drive for a few years now, well since December 2005 to be exact, that was when the new Sea Cliff Bridge opened to the public.
Lawrence Hargrave Drive is one of the most scenic roads in Australia. The road winds its way around the rugged coastal scenery from Stanwell Park to Thirroul, passing through the villages of Coalcliff, Clifton, Scarborough, Wombarra, Coledale and Austinmer.
The Royal National Park
Prior to the construction of the bridge, the area was notorious for rock falls, embankment slips and mudslides due to high rainfall and rock erosion. These rock falls caused many road closures throughout the history of the road. In August 2003, a large embankment slip called for a complete road closure. The road remained closed for two and a half years to avoid further rock falls and slippage problems, and to allow for the construction of the Sea Cliff Bridge. The bridge has been built out from the cliff face, away from the danger of rock falls and slippages eliminating the danger, and is a stunning piece of engineering.
To get to the Sea Cliff Bridge, you must drive through the Royal National Park. ‘The Royal’ is only 32 km south of Sydney, and packs incredible natural diversity into a relatively small area.
It offers riverside picnics, great surf beaches, cliff top headland walks, rainforest cycle tracks, and much more. You could easily lose yourself for days in its beauty. This time however, I only had time to drive through and stop for a few photos before reaching the coast and the stunning view of the Pacific Ocean from Stanwell Top. This is where the coast walk begins if you like a hike; again, I only had time for photos. When I think of Stanwell Top, I think of hang gliders and ice-cream vans. I have been coming here with my family since I was a little girl and every time I have visited, there are hang gliders floating through the sky, and there is an ice-cream van selling ice cream; no matter how cold a day it might be. However that is not all it has to offer. As I mentioned, the view is stunning. You can see all the way down the coast to Wollongong and beyond depending on how clear the sky is, and if the earth wasn’t curved and you had really good eyesight, you could see all the way to New Zealand.
Stanwell Tops, the moon was hanging low in the sky; you can just make it out in the left of the picture.
It was from here that I got my first look at the Sea Cliff Bridge snaking its way around the cliffs and sitting out over the rocks and water. It is still a little way down the coast, so the good eyesight comes in handy here too, or a good zoom on your camera, but I’m heading that way, so I’ll get to see it up close and personal.
Driving South over the new Sea Cliff Bridge
Each year in June and July Humpback Whales travel north along the east coast heading northward to their breeding grounds in warmer waters, they travel close to the coast and can easily be seen from Sea Cliff Bridge. I was a month too early, so no whale watching for me today, but if you are in the area in these months, it would be nice to walk out onto the bridge for a clear view of the whales. The whales return with their cubs in October and November, but travel further out to see, although you can still see them from the coast when they breach.
Ah, what a view
Driving south from the Sea Cliff Bridge, I drove through gorgeous little seaside beach villages. I have always loved this part of the world, it has such an unhurried relaxed feel about it and if you ever come to Sydney, I highly recommend spending at least a day exploring this quintessentially Australian area. This place is extra special to me, for the house that was once a private hospital where my mother was born is located in Thirroul, the most southern of the seaside villages before getting to Wollongong, or ‘the Gong’ as it is sometimes referred to. My family as close ties to Wollongong, my Grandmothers family come from the area, and I still have many cousins, second, third, fourth and so on living in the area.
Right now, it’s time to drive though, down through the Gong to Albion Park and up the steep winding road that is Macquarie Pass to Robertson (the setting for the movie Babe).
I pulled into Fountain dale Grand Manor; most people know it as Ranelagh House and it was the setting of my wedding in 1999. The Manor has changed hands and names since then, but is just as lovely, with deer and peacocks roaming the grounds. I spent a little while wondering the grounds before hitting the road again for my drive to Goulburn.
Looking back from Robertson in the Southern Highlands over the Macquarie Pass to the coast and Wollongong - all be it on a hazy day.
I didn’t get very far down the road before jumping out of my car to take some photos of the magnificent sunset. I went a little crazy with the photos, as I could not get enough of the stunning skies. Once the sun slipped behind the horizon, I drove straight to Goulburn to put my feet up and enjoy a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire with great friends.